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Saturday, July 18, 2009

RNA Conference Part 3

Booze, Sage Advice & the Blues

Back in the bar, conversation reigned unhindered. By this time I was mixing my drinks freely, which is something I always try to avoid doing, but luckily I escaped from the situation unscathed this time (I did have a nagging headache in the morning, but it had evaporated by the time breakfast was at an end!Trust me, I'm going to keep more of an eye on you in the future!)

Sue and I ended up at a table (me balanced precariously on a stool) sitting with a fabulous group of authors both published and unpublished. There was the gregarious Nina Harrington, celebrating the success of her first release in the Romance line Always the Bridesmaid (by the way, thanks for the copy Nina!).

Sitting nearby was Allie Spencer, still hot from the success of winning the 2009 Joan Hessayon Award for her Little Black Dress debut, Tug of Love, and the ever-chirpy Judy Jarvie, whose near constant smile has the power to lift even the most tired, booze-addled, sore-kneed and aching-shouldered of aspiring romance writers!

I should take a moment to pay tribute to the wonderful authors we chatted to at various points over the course of the weekend. I’ve already admitted previously that I can’t remember all names, but credit’s due to everybody for making this such a lovely time for one and all.

Particular joys for the pair of us were the opportunities to meet up with darkly delicious erotic fiction writer Saskia Walker and one of my all-time favourite historical authors, Carol Townend, who proved to be just as instantly warm and friendly as she comes across on the internet.

Sadly, some of the biggest M&B authors were unable to attend this year (and I hear that many crossed the pond to attend the RWA conference instead), but I don’t think the conference suffered as a result of them not being there.

Sue and I were enjoying ourselves in the bar until the barman suddenly approached from behind, announcing that it was time for last orders. I checked my watch. Half past ten! As far as I was concerned the night was still young, so what on earth was this all about? I pulled out the conference timetable that I’d been diligently carrying around in the back pocket of my jeans – slightly tatty by now (the timetable, not the jeans) - and confirmed what I thought I already knew – the bar was supposed to be open until midnight! (It's very difficult to socialise and network when there's nobody there!)

It turned out that, as most people had already gone, there was no point in the bar staying open. This was a real shame, a combination of long trips and early nights, as well as some ‘naughty’ kitchen parties that I’ve been hearing about. Nonplussed, we headed ‘home’ for the evening for some much-needed kip.

The RNA conference doesn’t leave much in the way of spare time. I was up at half seven the next morning, squeezing myself into a cramped but workable shower (thank God for that!) and soon identifying which one the ‘hot’ pipe was! A quick blow dry later – oh, the perils of long hair – (ohh the joys of a high-maintenance guy) and I was ready to attend breakfast with Sue.

I’ve always believed that a big meal is capable of setting you up for the day, so I was looking forward to attacking the dish with gusto. The only problem was that it was half eight already, and the first programme started at nine. Time to start stuffing! Luckily, it wasn’t that bad. We’d avoided the queue this time and I soon found myself sitting down with a full English breakfast in front of me; let’s just say that the chef did themselves proud with this one. Sue opted for the cereal and croissant, (which I was too busy talking to eat!) but there was no way I was missing out on the full complement: sausage, bacon, fried tomato, fried bread, scrambled egg, mushrooms and toast. All in the space of twenty minutes, too!

Before I come across as too much of a pig (as if!)– and I fear I’m too late for that – we’d better move on to the morning workshops. The first was with the lovely Victoria Connelly, who took us through the rejection blues, describing some of her experiences and dishing out advice left, right and centre. A fine start to the day.

Next up was the bit Sue and I had been waiting for: a talk by M&B editors Meg Lewis and Jenny Hutton on “Digging Deeper – finding new twists by knowing your characters”. The excellent advice was duly noted and will be shared as an addendum after this increasingly long-winded, multi-parted conference report is over!

As you can imagine, this was all a lot of information to take in, and also the long journey north on the previous day had started to take its toll on the both of us. Therefore we were forced to miss a couple of great-sounding talks by Rachel Natanson and Veronica Harvey, instead getting our heads down for a couple of hours’ sleep. Nevertheless we still managed to pop in to the Brambles restaurant for lunch.

I was pleased to see that there was no Cumberland sausage in sight this time, but instead some steaming lasagne that went nicely on my plate with a side salad and garlic bread. Sue, who has a chronic aversion to cheese in any form (except, unusually, cheese flavoured crisps and biscuits) opted for the ham salad. Again, the ladies who shared our table meant that we had plenty of enlightening discussion while we ate.

We dragged ourselves valiantly onward to Jessica Hart’s talk in the afternoon, entitled “Nobody mention the F-word!” This was another profoundly informative session during which we learnt plenty about what works and what doesn’t work in romance books, including, somewhat surprisingly, examples from prime-time American TV shows.

By this time, the afternoon was wearing on and both Sue and I became aware of the impending date: the gala dinner, served at seven thirty and a three-course meal to boot. There was no time to think about heading towards the bar: instead we hopped, skipped and jumped back to our apartments. Yes, it was time for Sue to get ready. Three hours later (because I had a long nap!) and we emerged, blinking, into the evening air...

To be continued...

Catch up on earlier RNA Conference posts here:
Part 1
Part 2


RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Another fun blog post.
I love the interjections by Sue :)
Thanks for sharing.
Love from Canada

Judy Jarvie said...

Your conference posts are brilliant. You've done the whole weekend such justice and I've loved reading all these to relive it - thanks muchly.

Smiley? Me? Must have caught me on a good night!
All I can say is that the company was superlative! judy x